The Federal Election, WWI Conscription Crisis, Wartime Elections Act, and Canadian War Measures Act

Conscription (noun):

  • The compulsory enlistment or “call up” (sometimes known as “the draft”) of citizens for military service.


1899 – 1902: The Boer War (South Africa)

To truly understand what the Conscription Crisis was, one needs to go back to a similar situation where conscription was avoided through compromise. The Boer War was a fight between Britain and Dutch settlers in South Africa overland with gold and diamond settlements. Tension rose between English Canadians and French Canadians when Britain demanded Canadian troop support. English Canadians wanted Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier to send troops immediately as they were ‘proud to be part of the British Empire’ and thought Canada should do more to help Britain, it’s mother country. However, French Canadians had no connection to Britain and didn’t want Canada to get involved in an ‘unjust imperial war’, feeling as though Canada was getting involved with a war with no benefits. As tension continued to grow (since sending military troops would force Canadians to fight for Britain whether they wanted to or not), Laurier came up with a compromise: Canada would only equip and transport volunteers who wanted to join the fight. This meant there was less support, but no French/English Canadians were forced to fight for Britain. In this case, conscription was not necessary because several thousand Canadians volunteered to fight and enlistment was plentiful.


August 4th, 1914 – January 10th, 1920 (War End): Canadian War Measures Act

The Canadian War Measures Act was a federal law instilled by Parliament on August 22nd,  1914, and has since been replaced by the Emergencies Act. It granted the Canadian government the following power:

  1. a) During WWI, the Federal Cabinet had full power and control in emergencies, bypassing the House of Commons and the Senate
  2. b) In order to protect security and order during war or insurrection, the Canadian Government could suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered ‘enemy aliens’ (any native, citizen, denizen or subject of any foreign nation or government with which a domestic nation or government is in conflict and who are liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured and removed). This led to controversial mass arrests without charge or trial.
  3. c) The government had “full authority during wartime to censor and suppress communications, to arrest, detain and deport people without charges or trials, to control transportation, trade and manufacturing, and to seize private property” (Canadian Encyclopedia).

The Canadian War Measures Act was used during WWI, WWII, and the 1918 Quebec Anti-Conscription Riots. During WWI, the Act was used to ban 253 publications, including 222 American, 164 foreign-language and 89 leftist publications. Thousands of civilians were interned in Canada when the act went into place. While most internees were recent immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, some were Canadian-born or naturalized British subjects. Another 80,000 people, mostly Ukrainian Canadians, were forced to register as enemy aliens, carry identity papers and report regularly to the police.


1914 – 1915: Early WWI / Late 1916: Halfway through WWI

In the early years of WWI, Canada’s troop numbers were high. 330,000 Canadian volunteers willingly enlisted to fight against the Germans in France and Flanders, Belgium. With Canada only involved because of its ties to Britain, French Canadians and now some English Canadians did not feel a benefit and therefore did not want to fight in the war. Similar to the Boer War, the number of volunteers meant that conscription was not necessary and that the military was solely volunteer. However, battles and situations would change as WWI reached its halfway point. Casualties and high injury/death rates, especially after new weapons were introduced such as poison gas and advanced aircraft and ships, heavily decreased Canada’s troop numbers. Enlistment volunteers were low, numbers of soldiers injured or dead were high, and most of Canada’s remaining troops were stuck in the trenches of war. The current Canadian Prime Minister and part of the Conservative party, Robert Borden, decided that direct action and conscription was necessary.


May 18th, 1917: Prime Minister Robert Borden announces conscription plans

Robert Borden, away in Britain at the Imperial War Conference in London, returned home to Canada in May 1917. He realized that in order to save and assist Canadian soldiers on the battlefield and in trenches, more troop support was necessary. With low volunteer enlistment, Borden determined that more direct action was necessary. He devised a plan for compulsory service subjecting all male citizens between 20-45 years of age to called military service during WWI. On May 18th, 1917, Borden announced his plans to Parliament. However, Borden’s plans were not without opposition. French Canadians, especially in Quebec, were outraged by the idea of conscription and rallied behind Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier.


May 25th, 1917 – June 6th, 1917: The Coalition government offer

With the Federal Election of December 1917 drawing closer, Borden worried that the Liberals and other anti-conscription political parties would outvote the Conservatives. To reduce the chances of lose, Borden offered to form a coalition government with Laurier. In exchange for supporting conscription, the Liberal Party would gain equal seats in Cabinet as the Conservative Party. However, on June 6th, 1917, Laurier declined Borden’s offer. He sided with Quebec and French Canadians as well as other Canadians that did not wish to fight in the war. Quebec was against conscription, and Laurier believed that supporting the coalition would give French Canada over to Quebec nationalists such as Henri Bourassa, one of Laurier’s old friends prior to the Boer War. Some Liberals would still side with Borden in October 1917, creating the ‘Union Government’ consisting of loyal Conservative majority, a handful of pro-conscription Liberals, and independent members of Parliament.


August 29th, 1917: Military Service Act

The Military Service Act marks the beginning of official conscription. After much difficulty, with almost every French-speaking members of Parliament, opposed conscription, the law was passed and Borden’s conscription plan was approved. The service act was supported by almost all English-speaking members of Parliament as well as the eight English-speaking provinces and was opposed by the province of Quebec. Male citizens between the ages of 20-45, if called by the government, were required to enlist in the Canadian army during WWI under the Military Service Act. Conscription was officially underway in Canada.


September 20th, 1917: Wartime Elections Act becomes a law

With Laurier refusing the coalition offer, Borden feared that the Conservatives would be outvoted in the December 1917 Federal Election by anti-conscription supporters, thus negating all work Borden put into instilling the Military Service Act. His solution was the Wartime Elections Act, which gave the right to vote in federal elections to nursing women (women serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps) and close female relatives to men serving in the war. While this act promoted voters who were more likely to support the developing Union Government and by extension conscription, it also removed the right to vote from thousands of people who were likely to vote against conscription. Any immigrant from enemy countries who had become citizens after 1902 (unless they had a son, grandson, or brother in the war actively fighting for Canada) and conscientious objects (people who refused to go to war because it was against their religious, moral, or ethical beliefs) were stripped of their right to vote in federal elections, therefore ensuring that the Union Government and conscription remained active.


1917: Federal Election (Union Government wins)

With the help of conscription supporters, the Wartime Election Act, and general standings, the Union Government won the majority, taking 153 seats (with only three from Quebec). The Liberal Party, headed by Laurier, won 82 seats (with 62 from Quebec). Despite these Quebec numbers, English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians were not absolutely unanimous in their political views, though on average English Canada supported Borden and conscription while French Canada, whom the conscription call-up would take people away from their family farms, were heavily Liberal.


January – Spring 1918: Conscription call-ups

Starting in January 1918, call-ups for conscription enlistment registered 401,882 men for military service. However, of those call-ups (with some exceptions due to injury or immigration), only 124,588 men joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, meaning 277,294 men ignored the Military Service Act. To make matters worse and lowering the impact conscription had on Canadian forces, only 24,132 men made it to France, the front lines, by the war’s end, and only 48,000 soldiers were sent overseas. Overall, conscription had a much smaller impact on Canada’s war effort than hoped but had a huge impact on the tension between French Canadians and English-Loyalists.


March 28th – April 1st, 1918: Quebec Anti-Conscription Riots

Anti-conscription riots broke out in Quebec during Easter, with armed rioters marched against and fought Canadian troops. After Federal Officials arrested a man under the Military Service Act (as the man refused to show any papers of exemption from military service), riots broke through the crowd, leading to enraged citizens assaulting officials to the point of requesting backup. The Canadian Government deployed over 6,000 soldiers to quell the riot, using the War Measures Act to detain and arrest rioters. When rioters attacked the soldiers with gunfire, improvised weapons, ice, and bricks, violence stained the streets red with the blood of 150 casualties, including four civilian deaths when soldiers returned fire under orders.


Guiding Question/Historical Significance: “To what extent did global conflicts between 1914-1945 allow Canada to become socially, politically, and/or economically autonomous?”

Conscription in Canada was at first a social and political obstacle on the path to British independence. During the 1899-1902 Boer War, conscription meant supporting Britain and forcing French Canadians to fight. Tension rose between English-Loyalists, who viewed themselves as British citizens, and French Canadians, who viewed themselves as having a separate identity from Britain. Laurier’s decision to compromise with volunteer-only troops was a major step in Canada’s Britsh independence. However, only 15 years later, Canada would once again be forced into a decision between English Canadians and French Canadians, this time siding with conscription. As WWI had yet to directly impact Canada other than the volunteer soldiers supporting Britain on the front lines, conscription was a step back in political autonomousness for Canada. French Canadian identity, on the side of the spectrum, increased in independence, with the 1918 Quebec anti-conscription riots and political sidings with Laurier’s Liberals against Borden’s Conservative party. Social autonomy within Canada grew, with internal struggles caused by conscription and immigration/’enemy alien’ restrictions caused by the Canadian War Measures Act leading to riots and controversial uses of emergency government power.


Cause and Consequence: What were the causes and most important aspects of your chosen event related to the guiding question? (5Ws).

Who: Most directly involved were Robert Borden & his Conservative party/English-Canadians vs. Wilfrid Laurier & his Liberal party/French-Canadians

What: Canadian volunteer military enlistments dying down in 1916 and high casualty rates on the front lines left Canadian troops stuck without backup. Borden determined that conscription was the only way to get support to soldiers in the trenches, and attempted to compromise with Laurier with a coalition government. However, Laurier refused on behalf of French Canada that would be negatively impacted by conscription, leading to the Wartime Elections Act, Borden’s Union Government, and eventually the Military Service Act

Where: Canada (specifically Ontario and Quebec)

When: 1916-1918 was the most impactful era, with high Canadian troop numbers in 1914/1915, the Federal Election/passing of the Wartime Elections Act and Military Service Act, and conscription dying down in impact after 1918.

Why: If volunteer numbers had remained high (similar to the Boer War), conscription would not have been a ‘necessary’ course of action to support Canadian troops on the front lines of WWI. In addition, the coalition government between Borden’s Conservatives and Laurier could have resulted in a better compromise for French Canadians (at least giving the Liberals equal seats in Cabinet). However, the outcome might still have been the same, as the Quebec riot was built solely on the values of French Canadians and not the Liberals.


Historical Perspective: How was your researched event viewed by Canadians at the time? How do you know?

Conscription was a divided issue in Canada. English Canadians and specifically English-Loyalists clamoured for the Military Service Act, while French Canadians were against conscription. The evidence rests in the Federal Elections of 1917, which was heavily influenced by the Conservative rush for conscription and the Liberal anti-conscription views. In the end, the Conservatives/Union Government won the majority, taking 153 seats (with only three from Quebec). The Liberal Party, headed by Laurier, won 82 seats (with 62 from Quebec). French Canadians, on average, voted for the Liberals against the Military Service Act while English Canada voted for the Conservatives. Following the Federal Election, tensions from the Military Service Act and Canadian War Measures Act exploded into the Quebec anti-conscription riots, forcing Canada into an internal social and political struggle.


Continuity and Change: To what extent did this event or idea affect Canadian social, political, or economic norms or values?

The Canadian War Measures Act was used in controversial ways by the Canadian Government to protect security and order. Given the right to suspend the civil liberties of people in Canada who were considered ‘enemy aliens’ (any native, citizen, denizen or subject of any foreign nation or government with which a domestic nation or government is in conflict and who are liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured and removed), the Federal Government used the Act to arrest immigrants without charge or trial. While for the most part the Act wasn’t used without reason, the social norm of the time led to many immigrants living in worse states or under constant government watch. In addition, the Military Service act contradicted the social and political values at the time as conscription went against Laurier’s compromise from the Boer War as well as today’s Canadian standard on volunteer troops. Forcing French Canadians to fight for a country they had no ties to kept Canada from becoming politically autonomous from Britain.


Works Cited:


Desmos Graph Picture

Sword, Shield, and Skyward Crest from The Legend of Zelda


For many of the triangles, I used absolute value for symmetry and more concise equations (as I could use one equation in the place of two). I used linear equations as a base or for simpler lines such as the blade of the sword. Parabolas/quadratic equations were used for large curves and even was used to make sure the ‘wings’ were symmetrical and lined up in a curve. Square root function was used for the top of the shield. I used reflection, horizontal shifts, stretches, and expansion/compression to make small adjustments and to make sure not every curve was identical (an example of this is the bottom of the hilt handle or the inward curve of the top wings). I also used restrictions for absolute value, shading, and general neatness.

I was expecting challenges going into this project, but there were surprisingly few issues and I caught on to the flow of the project pretty quickly. Some small issues came up when shading the wings because there are so many different pieces, but if an equation didn’t work I simply split it into two smaller sections. I didn’t need that much help except for a few moments of jumpstarting a solution for shading or reflecting square root functions.

Something new I discovered was absolute values. It was an accident; when I was typing a square function, I hit x twice. Apparently \sqrt{xx} is the same as y=|x| . I went to Mr. Salisbury with my discovery, and he explained absolute values to me and what limited them does.

My main strategies included experimenting, symmetry, and duplicating lines such as parabolas to keep both sides lined up. Especially in shading, this made work simpler as it was reflecting and limiting instead of writing a new equation, and in some cases, due to absolute value, the shading was put on both sides.

Overall, this project gave me room to experiment with different graphs and see in action what part of an equation changes the pieces of the graph. It simplified the different functions as I got the hang of where to put <, |x|, 1/2x, 2x, square roots, and exponents in order to change graph types, reflect, stretch, and transform lines.

Friday for Future




Margaret Atwood: A Biography

“Is it true that artists have to suffer to be creative?” To many, the answer would be yes. To artists of the 1960s, it would be an adamant yes. But to Margaret Atwood? You would get a resounding no, that artists are not victims without choice but rather capable of choosing their own price to pay. Her belief that artist’s should strike their own path eventually led to her belief that her role was not just to be a writer; it was to be a Canadian writer. Over the course of her studies at the University of Toronto and Radcliffe College, Atwood forged a decision that would impact not only her life but the lives and values of her fellow Canadians. Her journey, filled with social struggle and turmoils, laid the seeds of Canadian literature and identity. For Margaret Atwood, staying true to her culture despite flak, criticism, and a dominant American literature empire is what it means to be a Canadian.

Margaret Atwood’s incredible journey is outlined in Natalie Cook’s Margaret Atwood, A Biography. Starting from her time between schools in the US and Canada, Atwood learned an important fact; compared to Canada, the United States was “too familiar to be exotic, too unfamiliar to be comfortable,” and was dominated by American literature. In fact, the sheer amount of American writing compared to Canadian literature was a major factor in Atwood’s decision to become a Canadian writer. Atwood realized that if one can study American literature in a university, then why not Canadian literature? Prompted by a lack of awareness of Canada evident in those around her, “Atwood developed a sense of her place of origin. The Americans she met thought of Canada as “the blank area north of the map where the bad weather comes from.” Seeking out differences between America, a place that in climate and landscape is very similar to Canada, and her native land, Atwood starting seeing Canada as having a shape and culture of its own”. This search would ultimately result in her first book of nonfiction, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, a landmark in the development of Canadian writing and culture. “Survival was both a result of the rising tide of Canadian nationalism and a catalyst for it, helping fuel an explosion of interest in Canadian literature and culture during the 1970s, a time that has been called the New Age of Canadian literature.”

However, Atwood’s Canadian writing did not just start with Survival. Her earliest works such as The Edible Woman “reflect a number of concerns that have remained central to her beliefs: a profound respect for the natural world, a commitment to Canadian culture, and a firm belief in the rights of an individual. In her work, such concerns can be traced back in the themes of nature’s triumph over civilization, Canadian nationalism, and feminism.” These themes came together into a course Atwood taught in the 1970s called Canadian Women Writers. “This was the first time she had ever actually taught ‘Canlit’, and it reflected both the growing impact of Canadian nationalism on university curriculum and Atwood’s own role in that reform.” Atwood initiated a project designed to determine whether Canadian reviewers betrayed a gender bias. “The project spoke not only to the times but also to Atwood’s own perspective on gender bias in the profession.” It was not well received by reviewers, but Atwood didn’t let that stop her. Flak was not an unusual occurrence for her; her early works, Canlit, and later Survival generated a lot of criticism. Instead, it was Atwood’s reactions that make her truly inspirational as a Canadian; she continued with her belief on identity and didn’t let the views of others stop her. In her words, “Refusing to acknowledge where you come from… is an act of amputation: you may become free-floating, a citizen of the world (…), but only at the cost of arms, legs or heart. By discovering your place you discover yourself.” Embracing Canadian identity and striving to put a bit of one’s culture into your work is at the core of Atwood’s beliefs. It’s a belief that is carried into Canadian literature and a belief at the root of Canada. By embracing your identity instead of shying away to fit social norms is how one discovers and connects to being a Canadian.

So where do you go from here, now that you’ve discovered your identity? “Ever onward.”

John A. Macdonald: A Social Disgrace for the Wrong Reasons

The lens through which we look at history affects our view of the values of different times. We may look at our past using a historical lens, or we might look at it through a shielded bias. Nevertheless, it’s the opinions and debate on our values and how they have changed over time that affect and drive the most change in our community. In the case of Canada, a debate has been sparked since 2017 on whether or not John A. Macdonald should be in the public sphere, statues, or building names. On one hand, there are various movements that say that Macdonald should be removed because of his involvement in residential schools and his actions against Chinese Canadians. On the other hand, there are groups that say that Macdonald is an important part of Canadian history because of his work with the Canadian Pacific Railway project and his actions in uniting Canada as a Founding Father and first Prime Minister. Because of his historical impact as a Founding Father, his views around women and their right to vote, and the bias of current values affecting our judgement of his actions, John A. Macdonald’s name and likeness should not be removed from the public sphere.

While some people view John A. Macdonald as someone who contradicts Canadian values, he was actually quite progressive for his time, especially concerning his work surrounding women and their rights in a social and political environment. In the words of John A. Macdonald, he was “strongly of that opinion […] that Canada would have the honour of first placing women in the position she is certain, […] completely establishing her equality as a human being and as a member of society with man” (Macdonald). Macdonald believed that women were of equal status as men and should be allowed to vote, a view uncommon in the 1800s. His values were not reciprocated by his fellow politicians and although he fought, he was unable to pass the law allowing women the right to vote. However, we need to remember that Macdonald was fighting against the predominant social value in his time. All his views, the good and the bad, were influenced by the values of the 1800s and not the values of the present day. It’s when we look at our past through a skewed historical lens based solely on the views of our time alone that we are the blindest to how those values came to be. Without people like Macdonald who challenged the beliefs and norms of their time, the social values we hold dear today would not have come into existence.

Those who agree with social liberal ideas would say that Canadian values change over time and that John A. Macdonald contradicted those values with his contributions to Indigenous oppression. However, it’s important to realize that history needs to be viewed from many sides, and Canadian history has its high and low points. Erasing that history in a hasty attempt at political correctness isn’t going to fix the mistakes of the past; rather, it’s learning from our history that paves the way for repairing the future. We need to “understand the reality of John A. Macdonald – to teach his flaws and his virtues, and embrace our history, not run away from it”, because without hearing both sides, the cycle of historical bias and uneducated oppression continues (Moore). While John A. Macdonald’s actions against indigenous people were horrible, we must realize that those crimes happened during a time where Canadian values were different. It’s teaching about Macdonald and how he exemplified and contradicted present day norms that shows how much Canadian values have changed over time. John A. Macdonald’s statues are not just a piece of our history; they are symbols of a change in values from the 1800s to the present day. Someday there will be monuments of people from our time who will contradict the values of the future, just as there are statues of people from the past that contradict our values. Erasing any statues or mention in the public sphere of anyone who contradicts social beliefs is fruitless; eventually, no statues or major traces of history will remain because everyone has flaws. The knowledge that can be gained from learning both sides of our past is what drives and leads to social change.

In order to raise awareness of John A. Macdonald’s flaws and actions against Indigenous people, communities such as the Victoria City Council decided that statues of Macdonald should be removed from the public sphere as it positively promotes a man whose values does not line up with Canada’s values today. However, many groups such as members of the previous Conservative party argue that John A. Macdonald is an important part of Canadian history as it’s first Prime Minister, and that there are other historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson who have contradicted global values around slavery but haven’t been removed. Because of his progressiveness on women’s rights and his widespread impact as a Founding Father of Canada, John A. Macdonald does not deserve to have his name and statues erased from the public sphere, especially when most of his actions are being viewed by a historical bias. All historical figures leave good and bad impacts but it is not our place to judge them through the values of our own time. Rather, it’s when we look at the world through an open mind and see both sides of the story that we gain the most understanding of our history.


Works Used

Sears, Matthew A. “Monuments Aren’t Museums, and History Suffers When We Forget That.”, 14 Aug. 2018,

Wherry, Aaron. “’A Teachable Moment’: Debating Whether John A. Macdonald’s Name Should Be Scrubbed from Schools | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 25 Aug. 2017,

Zussman, Richard. “Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps Apologizes for Way Decision to Take down John A. Macdonald Statue Handled.” Global News, 29 Aug. 2018,

Bascaramurty, Dakshana. “Debate Escalates over Legacy of John A. Macdonald in Ontario Schools.” The Globe and Mail, 25 Aug. 2017,

Gwyn, Richard. “Richard Gwyn: How Macdonald Almost Gave Women the Vote.” National Post, 14 Jan. 2015,

Belshaw, John Douglas. “Canadian History: Pre-Confederation.” Canadian History PreConfederation, BCcampus, 13 Apr. 2015,

In Depth #6

With In Depth slowly coming to a close, I wanted to say how happy I am for my mentor. We’ve had 9 meetings together with a few more planned before In Depth Night. My latest meeting with my mentor was on Thursday, May 2 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm.

List of Concepts:

  • Scaffolding
    • A basic/vague idea of a novel/plot
  • Plot Points
    • Set up, Opening, Catalyst, Debate, B Story, Midpoint, All is Lost, Finale, etc.
  • Obstacle vs. Complication
    • Obstacle: Gets in the way of your goal
    • Complication: Creates change
  • Character Arc
    • A change your character goes through over the course of the story
  • Pacing
    • General pacing of the plot, action, and character dynamic
  • Plotting techniques
    • Save the Cat Plot Points, Scaffolding, Summary, etc.


My mentor has offered me alternative ways to write a scene, suggestions on edits and plot points, and feedback involving my writing and process. Some of these alternatives have included notes on keeping the scene more clear, different endings and parts of my scene that a) make sense or b) is a good idea to keep in mind, and tips on how to deal with multiple characters in one scene, just as taking some out or leaving them more two-dimensional as to not draw the focus too far away from the main character(s).

Another mentor might not have given me so in-tune or finite alternatives, as my mentor is extremely caring and has a similar style of story planning as me. Instead, the process and steps I went through to reach this point of my novel (save the cat plot points, developmental questions, the emotional wound thesaurus, etc.) would be different, as every writer have different strategies and use different tools. For example, my mentor last year used more worksheets and TED-ED videos for teaching and plotting. While that method was not bad and works very well, the process I went through with Leslie worked better for my style. I was able to clearly put my ideas out in a written form, working my way around world/character/plot building along the way. The amount of work I had to do before I could actually start writing forced me to really plan ahead, and I am less inclined to get stuck not knowing what to write.

Learning Centre:

My learning centre is going to showcase my process step by step. Similar to a timeline, I want to show how I transitioned from plot pointing to one sentence summary to developmental questions to identifying characters to deep emotional wounds to scene outlining and finally scene writing. I’m going to print out my work as examples, and I will focus on the step and not the detail I put into the step for my writing. I want to be able to teach/show others a process to writing and show how detailed and complicated it is while at the same time giving some food for thought in the form of tools people can use. In addition, my main focus (other than the process) will be the scenes I’ve written for my novel. I have an opening scene, a scene around the middle of the novel, and an ending scene. Similar to last year, I will read out some of my writing, cutting an edited version as to not take up too much time. I will interact with the ‘audience’ by explaining my process and reading out my writing.

Margaret Atwood – Independent Novel Check-In

“Is it true that artists have to suffer to be creative? (…) Artists suffer, therefore you deviously go about finding ways to make yourself suffer so you can write. (…) But basically I don’t like suffering very much, so I evolved a rationale that permits less of it. (…) ‘Suffering,’ with all its connotations of dark, lonely garrets, suggests that the artist has no choice in the matter; ‘paying a price’ implies that the artist makes a conscious decision about the costs and implications of creativity. The latter is much closer to Atwood’s belief that the artist is a responsible citizen and not a passive victim.” – (Pg. 16-17)

As an artist in the form of creative writing, Margaret Atwood tapped into something that resonated with my soul. The first time I read this passage, I started crying, like it had hit something deep in my heart that I didn’t even know was there. I never thought about the struggles of a writer or needing to suffer in order to be creative, but reading this passage a part of me said that yes, you unconsciously feel that way. The amount of struggle, effort, and emotion that goes into writing isn’t intrinsically suffering, but rather is some sort of price paid in order to connect with your characters and your readers. Something deep in me connects me to this passage, even if I can’t consciously describe it.

While Margaret Atwood redefined and created a lot of Canadian Literature, it’s ideas like this – reinventing what it means to be an artist through suffering and paying a price- that changes how an artist thinks. Canadian identity is a collection of expression, from diversity to culture, and art/writing is a major part of it. Margaret connects with what it means to be an artist, to express yourself and your own identity without the need for suffering but rather by making conscious choices, and defines that expression into a set of values for herself and other artists. This simple change in perspective lets so many artists make more, express more, and do more without the worry of struggle and suffering in order to create. Expression is an element of Canada, and without the artists that line its history, Canada would never be as culture rich as it is today.


“Atwood expected to find at this institution (Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts) the same supportive and exhilarating environment she had found at Vic (Victoria College at the University of Toronto) – only more so. (…) Compared to Canada, the United States was, for Atwood, too familiar to be exotic and too unfamiliar to be comfortable. These inconsistencies led first to disappointment and then to a growing resolve about who she was and who and what she wanted to be. (…) she would be first a writer and specifically a Canadian writer.” – (Pg. 87-88)

From my personal experience travelling in the US, there are certain differences between Canada and the United States. Culture, stores, simple ways of life, even small changes in language and of course, literature. Sometimes when crossing the border I forget that I’m not in Canada, yet at times it is almost painfully obvious this is not my country. The geography, the way people act, everything ties it together in one summed up sentence: too familiar to be exotic and too unfamiliar to be comfortable.

Canada and the US are often seen as similar due to their connection in trade and alliances. However, the opposite is also argued; that the cultures are vastly different, and the values of the people don’t match. Which is true? It’s a mix of both. In the end, it comes down to your own roots that define which culture you aline yourself with, and Margaret realized that Canada needed its writers. In the past, Canada was more supportive compared to the US, and it’s argued that it still is today. While prejudice still reigns in both times, the fact still stands that when compared at Margaret’s time, Canada was saver, ‘free’ of the dangers Margaret soon learned the US held.


“As a young girl, Atwood was subjected to one important lesson of the times: society expected women to choose between career and family. In fact, this was the lesson of the times, but somehow the Killam (Margaret’s family) women had both acknowledged and ignored it. Ultimately, Atwood herself would reject it (…) largely because the extraordinary talent and drive of the Killam women showed her that it did not have to be an either/or option. Her mother was perhaps the most obvious example of a woman who could not be contained by the middle-class-Canadian-housewife stereotype.” (Pg. 43)

Much like Margaret Atwood, my mother defied the stereotypes of women and housewives. Strong, independent, smart and business-savvy, it was her and the other strong women in my family and friends that first taught me how to defy the typical prejudices of our society, which grew into a resolve to avoid the traps that lay in the groundwork of gender workforces. Why should a woman need to feel forced, to choose between her dreams and goals? I don’t let myself be caught in the web of sexism, and I hope to follow Margaret in paving a road against these stereotypes through writing.

Canada is currently very forward compared to parts of the world when it comes to feminism, but in Margaret Atwood’s time, there still was some bias and stereotypes. Part of Canadian identity is striving past borders and boundaries and pushing the limits of yourself and society. It’s how we’ve been able to advance so much throughout the years as a country and nation, and why Canadian identity and views have changed. Nowadays, Canada is a place for everyone to express themselves without judgement and bias, and while it still exists, the values of equality in Canada have changed to be more open regardless of gender, sexual identity, race, and religion.


“Atwood taught a course called Canadian Women Writers. This was the first time she had ever actually taught ‘Canlit’, and it reflected both the growing impact of Canadian nationalism on university curricula and Atwood’s own role in that reform. As well as examining the work of contemporary Canadian women writers (…), Atwood initiated a project designed to determine whether Canadian reviewers betrayed a gender bias. (…) The project spoke not only to the times but also to Atwood’s own perspective on gender bias in the profession.” (Pg. 180-181)

Margaret Atwood strikes me as a very eminent person not only in Canadian history but global culture. Her work is inspiring, how she managed to identify and almost completely change society’s gender bias in writing. Her work laid the stepping stones of today’s equalization, and I strive to follow in her footsteps to prove that Canadians, women, and especially Canadian women can write.

Canlit and the teachings Margaret Atwood taught in her Canadian Women Writers course inspired many generations of Canadian writers and shed light on Canadian literature that had previously been pushed aside and shadowed behind US publications. Canada didn’t always have gender equality (and arguably it still doesn’t now), and Margaret Atwood and other women writers had the drive to fix that. In addition, Canada started taking its own identity and nationality seriously in public education; today we learn about Canadian culture, history, and literacy, while in Margaret’s time her class was one of the few that were truly ‘Canadian’. Canada identity today, therefore, is learning and teaching our culture and openly accepting our heritage.


“(Atwood) very firmly believed that her role was not just to be a writer; it was to be a Canadian writer. During the 1970s, to fulfil such a role entailed a struggle. It was still unusual and enormously difficult to make a decent living by writing full time in Canada. (…) Refusing to acknowledge where you come from… is an act of amputation: you may become free floating, a citizen of the world (…), but only at the cost of arms, legs or heart. By discovering your place you discover yourself. Over the course of the next decade, (Atwood) would not only discover Canada but become one of those who created it in myth and narrative while striving to protect it from the cultural imperialism of the United States.” (Pg. 197)

The US is way more popular in literature; from books published from the US to the literal setting of novels, the United States is identified as the main location of North America for some reason. I can relate to Margaret Atwood’s resolve to stick to her roots. Settings of my writing often include Canada instead of the US, and I stick with it. The geography and culture of Canada is something I hold dear to my heart, and I would never be able to throw it away just to seem a bit more ‘recognizable’.

Margaret Atwood was determined to be a Canadian writer, and her drive inspired the creation of Canlit, revolutionized what it means to be a Canadian artist, and acknowledged what it means to write about your culture. There are differences between the US and Canada, especially in culture, and a huge part of Canadian identity is being unafraid of showing who you are. At the time, writing was not a common career for full time in Canada, but through Atwood and Canlit it changed into a form of expression, with Canadians sticking to their roots with their writing and artistic works.

Theme: By understanding where one comes from, we can connect to the culture of our heritage and express a deep bond on who we are with the world.

In Depth #5

In Depth is going great. I had my fourth official meeting with my mentor on Wednesday, March 6 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm, and my fifth official meeting on Thursday, March 14 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm. 

I transcribed a piece of a conversation I had with my mentor on March 6. We talked about the developmental questions I had come up with and answered. For those who don’t know, a developmental question helps eliminate plot holes and clarify the rules and logistics of a novel after you plot the story but before you write. It gives you a better understanding of how everything in your novel works and is especially helpful when you have a complex story with ideas such as prophecies and alternate dimensions. 

Note: I tried to transcribe the conversation in a more general form as we talked very deeply into the logistics of my novel I would need to explain in person to understand at the point I’m at now. I’ve still included the topic, but I took out the complicated terms that only myself and my mentor would understand. Even still, some of the developmental questions will seem strange without context. I apologize.

M: Myself L: My mentor

L: “So what is your plan for today?”

M: “Well, I was hoping we could go over the developmental questions I finished from the last meeting and then if there’s time go over the next steps together.”

L: “Alright, so let’s see your work!”

(I pulled out my computer with the developmental questions)

M: “So the first thing I did was puzzle out how the prophecy works. Who made it, what it means, why it’s under the school, where it came from, that sort of thing.”

L: “Okay.”

M: (I explained my ideas)

L: “So one thing, how would this General know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”

L: “Okay so that’s good, I understand how that would affect the prophecy and the General. Personally, I see (the idea) laid out like this. (Explains her understanding of my explanation)”

M: “Yes, that’s what I was going for.”

L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”

M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

L: “Now, would that be a prologue or a separate piece?”

M: “It would be a prologue that sets up the story for the characters.”

L: “Ah. Well, based on my experience you would have to be careful about it since story should begin with your character.”

M: “I understand, so I thought it could be a half scene as a hook then transition to the characters.”

We then continued to talk about the rest of the developmental questions in a similar pattern (I would explain, my mentor would sometimes ask for deeper clarification, I would dig deeper prompted by my mentor, repeat).

In that part of our conversation, I identified 5 hats: the white hat, the yellow hat, the black hat, the green hat, and the blue hat.

The blue hat came first: 

L: “So what is your plan for today?”

M: “Well, I was hoping we could go over the developmental questions I finished from the last meeting and then if there’s time go over the next steps together.”

L: “Alright, so let’s see your work!”

Just like the start of every meeting, after greetings and catching up my mentor would ask me what I wanted to accomplish in that meeting. I would explain my ideas and run the plan by her, and she would then agree and follow/lead when required. The blue hat defines the focus of the conversation, and it allows the other hats to fall into a pattern that repeated for each developmental question.

Next came the white hat:

M: “So the first thing I did was puzzle out how the prophecy works. Who made it, what it means, why it’s under the school, where it came from, that sort of thing.”

L: “Okay.”

M: (I explained my ideas)

The facts and information were laid out every time I explained my ideas/answers for the developmental questions. My mentor would follow up with what else the reader would need to know and what other questions were related to the discussion question. Each explanation was converted into hard facts within the story; the laws and rules as to how the ‘supernatural’/indescribable worked in the context of my story (ie. the prophecy).

The white hat led to the black hat:

L: “So one thing, how would this general know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”


M: “Yes, that’s what I was going for.”

L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”


M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

L: “Now, would that be a prologue or a separate piece?”

My mentor analyzed my answers and responded with critical questions that indicated logic I’d overlooked or hadn’t explained. The idea of a developmental question is essentially looking at a novel with the black hat lens, finding the plot holes/faults and problems in story/logic, and fixing it through critical and creative thinking.

Following the black hat was the green hat:

L: “So one thing, how would this general know about the prophecy? How does the General write about Raven if it hasn’t happened yet?”

M: “Oh, I thought about that and I had a couple of ideas. (I then explained my ideas)”


L: “So how do the readers find out about this?”

M: “Oh, I had an idea about that. I was thinking something like (explain).”

The questions my mentor proposed led to me coming up with ways to solve and fix the problems in logic. My mentor would quite literally ‘ask for ideas’, and if I hadn’t already solved that question I would have to come up with a new answer, often on the spot. In other words, the critical judgement of my mentor led to creative ideas and alternatives to solving the developmental questions.

Finally came the yellow hat:

M: “It would be a prologue that sets up the story for the characters.”

L: “Ah. Well, based on my experience you would have to be careful about it since story should begin with your character.”

M: “I understand, so I thought it could be a half scene as a hook then transition to the characters.”

The yellow hat is for sharing experiences and finding some insight into why something works or doesn’t work. My mentor shared her past knowledge on prologues with me, and how they are not always the best for a story. I used the information she taught me to find an insight; would a prologue add value to my story? In my case, I believe yes because it sets up the world with a hook that you don’t get the conclusion to until later. The idea could not have come without the conversation where we discussed what would best suit/benefit my novel.

Is Canada a Country, a Nation, and/or a Post-National State

Canada is a nation and a country, but not a post-national state. 

Canada is a country is based on legal and political geographical borders, not the people. Canada is recognized internationally as a country with borders to the US and borders between provinces and territories. In addition, Canada has a GNI (Gross National Income) of a High-Income Economy ($12,236 or more per capita). GNI is calculated by the average income of the citizens of a country divided by that country’s population size. GNI is a common calculation on classifying countries, and Canada passes the test. Canada is also recognized by the World Bank, which classifies its countries by income, operational politics, and by geographical regions.

Canada is also classified as a nation because the people are connected through culture and history. A nation is a stable community of people connected by a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or common culture. Canada is the most culturally diverse country in the world, with 96% of the world’s population of visible minority people living here. In Canada, the majority of people speak English or French with only 6.2% of the population speaking another language as their mother tongue, and the majority speaking two languages. Canada is also a huge geographical area with a big but spread out population, and ranks in one of the top High-Income Economic countries. Although it only ranks in the top 20 military powers of the world, Canada, as seen by battles in history such as The Battle of Quebec (1775), is one of the hardest countries to battle directly because of the geographical size and unity of population. It is because of these abilities that Canada has been able to grow as a nation. As Charles Foran of The Guardian stated, it’s “Being liberated from the economic and military stresses that most other countries face (that) gives Canada the breathing room, and the confidence, to experiment with more radical approaches to society”. Canada has such a strong economy and military compared to other countries that there is room for innovation and growth. Like the invention of farming changed the lives of hunter-gatherers, Canada has “the history, philosophy and possibly the physical space to do some of that necessary thinking about how to build societies differently” (Charles Foran, The Guardian). 

In addition, Canada has a long history starting from before the Canadian Confederation and leading up to the present day. Although not all Canadians are born here, the general stories that immigrants have gone through are similar. Canada attracts immigration because of its lifestyle, culture, and laws that allow people to keep their own culture and heritage. Being a nation does not mean that everyone must conform to a certain tradition and culture. Canada thrives in the fact that ‘‘there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values — openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice”, but no oppression of culture. (Justin Trudeau). As Douglas Todd stated, “Many immigrants seem to realize that it’s not normally nationalism that foments catastrophic division, it’s religion, race or tribalism. Some of the world’s most economically successful and egalitarian countries have a sense of mutual trust and appreciation for good government that is in part based on the glue of nationalism”. Canada does not force the complete change of one’s culture, but rather allows others to live their own traditions and heritage as long as the collective values and morals of the country are upheld. Because of this, “Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity” (Marshall McLuhan, 1963). There is no true single culture that unites everyone, only bonds that hold together a nation. To summarize, Douglas Todd stated, “Healthy nationalism encourages diverse people to cooperate”, which explains how immigration and different cultures have managed to live together in Canada. There is no true identity, only a collage of pieces that form the puzzle of our nation.

Because there is no one identity and multiple cultures tied together by shared language, space, and heritage, Canada is not yet a post-national state. For a place to be post-national, it needs to be so united under one culture that the government does not need to step in to uphold equality. The trouble with having no identity is that there is no one culture that can be used as a backdrop. In Canada’s case, a question rises: “Can any nation truly behave “postnationally” – ie without falling back on the established mechanisms of state governance and control?” (Charles Foran, The Guardian). There are currently two sides to this question. The first, as outlined by Justin Trudeau, is that “(Canada) is a place where respect for minorities trumps any one group’s way of doing things”, meaning that the cultures of Canada are united by the respect we have for each group. However, I am part of the other side who believes Canada is not at post-national state status. There is still discrimination for race, identity, religion, and culture in our country, and even though Canada is better than most, there still is a long way before equality for human rights is achieved. The problem lies in how you would make a country post-national. If you conform everyone to a certain amalgamated culture, what would happen to those oppressed into this united area that isn’t that united? As the short story “Harrison Bergeron” shows, if everyone’s equal, that means that certain people have been forced into that equality. 

The side opposed the ‘Canada is a post-national state’ argues that while Canada has some bonds, the strength and amount of those bounds are not enough to be a post-national state. Currently, I believe we are at a healthy nationalism where different cultures and groups can be expressed and shared, but not at a complete unified state. As Scott Gilmore stated, “It is almost inevitable that this country is one day going to face some unexpected shock. When that day comes, we may realize that we took for granted those few ties that bound us, and we did far too little to add to them and to draw them tighter”. Canada has had opportunities in the past to put away differences and educate and learn about the cultures that make up the mass identity, but until the day arrives that equality can be achieved without oppression, Canada will remain a country/nation and not a post-national state.


In Depth #4

In Depth is going absolutely wonderfully. I had my third official meeting with my mentor on Wednesday, February 20 from 4:00pm – 5:15pm. In this meeting, I incorporated the sections of “How to Listen” and “Questions” from Edward de Bono’s “How to Have a Beautiful Mind”. After showing and explaining my completed and edited Save the Cat plot points and my one sentence story summary to my mentor, we talked about the next steps of writing a novel. I asked my mentor about first drafts, edits, and opening lines, thinking those were the next steps in writing a novel. My mentor explained how there are a few more steps, but also took the time to answer my questions about ‘how do you find the opening line of a story?’ ‘how do you write without getting distracted by edits?’, and ‘how do you edit a draft?’. 

I learned that to find the opening line, you need to first write the opening scene and establish what you want to engage your reader with. Starting with the description of the scene is typically not a good idea, and my mentor suggested using action or going right into the head of your character to start a novel. Upon further asking for clarification on why, my mentor explained how the hook not only pulls in your reader but sets the scene; most authors actually avoid prologues because they don’t focus on your character. To direct quote my mentor, “The character should drive the plot, not the other way around.” This was a strange new point of view for me as I love using prologues to introduce the world, and I use them as a good hook. I explained my side of the view, and we compromised a joint view on a prologue that is set directly in the action that impacts the story that avoids an excess amount of exposition.

My mentor also explained how writing drafts (in her opinion) work. The strategy she uses is extremely useful and efficient, and I am starting to implement it in my draft writing. The trick is to force yourself to write a complete first draft of your novel without going back to edit. Once that is complete, you go back and do an edited draft for grammer and sentence structure, followed by a draft that fixes plot holes. Then you go back through a character lens and check the consistency of your characters after you’ve gotten to know them (ie. if they would say a certain thing), and then keep doing edits, cuts, additions, and peer edits until you are satisfied. My mentor and I modified it slightly for In Depth, choosing to take on sections from the plot points at a time instead.

My homework from this meeting is to write down and answer the developmental questions of my story. Developmental questions are plot points or areas of plot holes, and explain ‘why can’t this happen now?’, ‘what is affecting this to happen now?’, ‘what causes this?’, and anything involving timing or needs explanation. Simply saying ‘because of the prophecy’, for example,  isn’t enough. You need to answer ‘but why does the prophecy affect this’, and so forth. This clears up any complicated points and smooths out your story, and makes it easier to avoid plot holes later in story writing and development. My other bit of homework is to write the first drafts of my ‘Opening Scene’, and collect my favourite opening lines from other novels to share with my mentor.

My next meeting is on Wednesday, March 6 from 4:00pm – 5:00pm. I am extremely excited to continue this project with my mentor.